The Placenta & Cord
As birth photographers, we are witness to many aspects of the body, both inside and out. We are invited to document the transition a woman goes through while growing a baby, laboring to bring baby earth side, opening her body to birth a child, and finally, nurturing and caring for her newborn while healing her body. While each mother's story is unique and unpredictable, there are some constants. One of those fascinating parts of the story is the growth and development of a completely new organ that is the life supply for the growing baby: the placenta and cord. It may seem odd to be in awe of a bloody, meaty organ, but for many of us, we truly find it to be beautiful.
In addition to our public Facebook page, we have a private group comprised of only birth photographers. We use this group for support, education, guidance and inspirational image sharing. Each Wednesday, we have a predetermined theme and photographers are encouraged to share images that resonate for them. In May, one of our themes was the placenta and cord and we were so blown away by the variety of images shared, that we wanted to collect them and share with you!
Please note, that the following images may not be for the feint of heart. You will see blood, organs, and nudity. Part of our goal at Birth Becomes Her is to continue to normalize birth, the beauty of the body and the natural process of birthing a child. We encourage you to read, examine, and learn the following facts about this organ, even if you are unable to find the beauty in it. Thank you.
"The placenta, at term, is a blueish-red, round, flat, meat like organ, about 15 to 20 cm in diameter, 3 cm thick, and about 1/6 the weight of the baby. It serves the same function for the embryo and fetus in the womb as the kidneys, lungs, and intestines do for us after birth. The placenta is made of tissue derived both from the mother and baby, juxtaposing but not mixing the blood streams of mother and child." ~ Spiritual Midwifery, Ina May Gaskin
Photographer's - get artistic!
Regardless of whether the placenta is birthed before or after the cord has been cut, these detail shots can be invaluable to the family. Typically, this is a busy time, adrenaline and oxytocin are high and the birth fog is thick. Parents are in awe of their newborn and often just focused on each other. Delivering the placenta can sometimes be painful or uncomfortable, so finding the beauty in the moment can be low on the list of desires. However, it is part of their birth story, it served as a home and life source for their baby, and more often than not, families are grateful for the images. Artistically, the juxtaposition of the bloody organ, expelled from the body and no longer of any use to either the mother or the baby, sitting next to the mother and new human being full of life is stunningly gorgeous.
After the flurry of birth, and mom and baby are settling in with each other, it's nice to step away and encourage some one on one quiet time. This is an awesome opportunity to snap some artistic shots of the placenta. While always being mindful and respectful of the medical field, check in with the provider and ask for assistance or approval to photograph. If you are comfortable and have been given approval, be sure to wear gloves, and find some gorgeous light, a beautiful backdrop, complimentary colors, or artistically arrange the cord and honor the beauty that is this organ.
"What can you do with a placenta? Many moms are starting to embrace this incredible organ! You can take it home and bury it, nourishing the ground and maybe helping to grow a new tree or flower bed. You can ingest it, either encapsulated, raw, in a smoothie, or as a tincture. You can make a print of it, an art piece to remember its significance. Or you can simply look at it, maybe snap a picture, and appreciate the miraculous things it has done." ~ Dallas Arthur
The Umbilical Cord
"The umbilical cord connects the placenta to the baby. It is filled with a whitish-gray, jelly-like substance which protects the umbilical vein and the two umbilical arteries from being compressed."
~ Spiritual Midwifery / Ina May Gaskin
Delayed Cord Clamping
"The benefits of delaying cord clamping are well documented and it’s so wonderful that so many babies nowadays get to benefit from it! Have a look at the colour of the cord and colour of baby in these images!! Right at birth the cord is still pulsating with blood and baby has yet to fully pink up. Second image shows baby nice and pink and cord that has stopped pulsating because all the blood has travelled to baby! It’s approximately one third of their blood! Our bodies are amazing!"
Cord Burning Ceremonies
Mary Nieland / Fox Valley Birth and Baby / www.foxvalleybirthandbaby.com / Serving Fox Valley